What should we tell our children about losing a pet? When children lose a pet, it may be their first experience with death. They need the truth, in terms that they can understand, with an opportunity to ask questions. The type and amount of information provided will depend upon the child's age and level of understanding. Here are a few tips that I have found useful in my practice:
Include children in the decisions that must be made. Have a family meeting.
Preparation is important, especially if a child will not be present at the euthanasia.
Encourage the opportunity to say goodbye to the pet beforehand.
Use appropriate language. Do not be afraid of the words death and dying. Don't use the euphemism "putting him to sleep" when you mean to say we are helping the animal to die.
Don't be afraid to let your child see that you are sad.
Remember that children have very short attention spans. They quickly turn from tears to "When can we get a new pet?" and back again
How can I deal with the grief surrounding my loss? Everyone grieves differently and there are no abnormal feelings. Dealing with the grief and guilt associated with an animal's death can be one of the most difficult emotional challenges you will ever face. Fortunately, there are a multitude of resources available, including books, articles, websites, and support groups. See our Pet Loss Resources page for more information.
What are some ways that I can remember my pet? The remembrance of a life is as unique as the life itself. We encourage you to think about this in advance. You may want to arrange for pictures, take a last trip, a walk to a special place, visit with old friends, have a special dinner, or think what you might send along to the crematory or cemetery. Here are some ideas that have helped others in the past:
Tie up a lock of hair
Take a paw print (we can assist you with this)
Make a shadow box with toys and collar
Have a stone or plaque inscribed for the garden
Plant flowers or bulbs that will bloom on the anniversary
Donate food or belongings to a shelter
Contribute to an appropriate animal charity
Draw or paint a picture
Make a scrapbook with photos and other memorabilia
Write a letter, a story or a poem
Share your precious stories, especially the ones that make you smile